“When the fate of the world lies in evil hands,
Only with divine powers will it stand a chance,
From all around the world will gather,
Eight warriors whose pure hearts shall not waver.”
“I’ve heard of this garbage for ages. Who started this anyway?”
“We have done our best to investigate, Your Majesty, but unfortunately these words have been going around from mouth to mouth since forever, so it is impossible to trace anymore,” answered a soldier with his head facing down and his hands clasped in a respectful manner.
“And to whom is this ‘evil’ referring to?”
“Err… that is…”
“Pardon me, Your Majesty, but people have somehow gotten the idea that this supposed prophecy is referring to eight people that are destined to overthrow Your Majesty.”
At once, complete silence filled the entire palace hall. It was as if the temperature had dropped several degrees as every eye in the room turned to look at the king, waiting for his response. But the king was left speechless at what he had just heard. His face slowly turned scarlet while his mouth gaped soundlessly, as he tried to find words abominable enough to express his fury. To think that there were people who dared to defy him, the almighty king of the grand Daikoku kingdom. His throne had been secure for over twenty-five years, for he had suppressed all possible threats from both inside and outside of the kingdom, well, all except the damn Night Hunters. Still, he had made sure that all his opponents with their armies of rebels were crushed not only in the most humiliating ways, but also in ways that strike intense fear in the hearts of everyone who had seen or heard of the events. He had crushed hundreds, no, thousands! And yet, despite all this, this mere soldier had the nerve to even suggest that his reign would end in the hands of a mere group of eight!?
With these thoughts swimming in his mind, the king glowered at the soldier kneeling in front of him, without realizing that the palace hall were slowly buzzing louder and louder, as the royal court, ministers, soldiers, maids, servants, and even concubines were all chattering with low voices. Amidst all those buzzing, the poor soldier grew more and more anxious as he heard phrases such as: “Night Hunters,” “Black Panther,” “magic powers,” and “punishment.” He stared at the palace floor, not daring to raise his head even an inch. Had he considered that his honesty would lead to the whole palace court whispering under the king’s very nose, he would’ve feigned ignorance.
“HOW DARE YOU!!” the king finally roared.
The whole palace hall turned silent abruptly once again as the king’s face turned such a dangerous shade of crimson that it almost looked like it was emitting smoke.
“Guards! Take him away and have him beheaded this instant!!!”
“Forgive me, Your Majesty! Please spare my life! I have a family!”
“I see… Why didn’t you say so?” said the king, grinning maliciously at the prospect of having another chance to demonstrate his supremacy, “General Kurogane! Find his family and execute them right away!”
When his name was mentioned, a dark-skinned army general with short jet-black hair looked up and started to walk forward from where he stood ten feet to the left of the throne. But before he even took a step, a low rank soldier ran forward and quickly went down on his knees.
“Forgive my intrusion, Your Majesty. This man has dedicated his life to the Imperial Army of Daikoku Kingdom. What he just said now was only repeating what he had heard from other people. I was there with him. I can assure you what he had said had nothing to do with his own opinion. Please be generous and spare his life!” he pleaded with his head down.
The sentenced soldier looked gratefully at the pleading figure next to him, while the king glowered furiously at the both of them.
“Do you not know your place!? What is he to you that you would beg for his life? Do you want to die with him!?” shouted the king.
“Please, Your Majesty. I am nothing but this man’s humble subordinate, and a fellow servant to the kingdom. I truly respect him for his dedication to the kingdom, and of course, his dedication to Your Majesty. I believe that such dedication should not go unrewarded.”
Everyone in the palace started murmuring to each other, even the king himself became unsure of his decision. He casted a doubtful look at the prime minister, who stood next to him, calmly stroking his beard.
“If I may speak, Your Majesty,” the prime minister said with a slight bow.
“Go on,” replied the king quickly, looking extremely relieved.
“Thank you, Your Majesty. Now,” the prime minister turned to the two soldiers with a cold smile and stepped forward, “Let me get this straight. You two, amongst others, investigated this so called prophecy, did you not?”
Both soldiers nodded quietly, “Yes, sir.”
“And you both heard people speaking about their assumption that this prophecy is about the end of our king’s mighty rule?”
The two soldiers casted a frightened look at each other before answering, “Y-yes, sir.”
“Did you punish them in any way?” the prime minister inquired coldly.
“So,” the prime minister said with a finalized tone, “Despite all your assertions about dedications to the kingdom and His Majesty, you let such remarks slide unpunished?”
The murmurs grew louder, and some people nodded in agreement. The prime minister nodded to king and stepped back. Looking extremely pleased, the king ordered everyone to be silent.
“General Kurogane, proceed with the execution. Take this man too, and his family!” he proclaimed.
The two soldiers screamed in protest, but this time, no one dared to defend them.
“Oh, and make sure you do it where everyone in town can see it. Everyone will see what happens to any family that dares to proclaim such treason to the king,” the king added malevolently.
General Kurogane walked forward and bowed.
“As you wish, Your Majesty,” he said flatly. Then, with a wave from one hand, he had his subordinates drag the two soldiers out.
General Kurogane didn’t try to defend the poor soldiers at all, neither did he respond to the their desperate imploring. In fact, General Kurogane’s face was almost emotionless; he only had a stern look on his face that showed neither excitement nor concern that he had to take the lives of these innocent people.
“No! Your Majesty, please! My family is innocent!!!” screamed the first soldier as a few soldiers started dragging him out.
“Silence! Be glad I didn’t sentence them a more torturous death. General! Make sure they are beheaded before sundown tomorrow!” the king roared, his cold gray eyes squinting threateningly.
One of General Kurogane’s subordinates clasped his hand over the first soldier’s mouth to shut him up. The second soldier, on the other hand, had swore himself hoarse and resolved to spit in the king’s direction instead, earning himself some hearty punches in the gut.
After much struggles, the first soldier managed to bite the hand that was clasped over his mouth and bellowed, “You fiend! You monster!! All you do with your power is sacrifice people for your own gain! Mark my words! Heaven will make you pay! Even as ghosts, me, my family, and everyone else who died in your filthy hands will definitely help those eight people in any way to defeat you!!!”
Shouting and cursing at the top of their lungs, the soldiers were dragged out of the room. No kicks or punches could shut their mouths, but even their harsh words couldn’t compare to their utter bewilderment and hatred towards the despicable king and sly prime minister. The faces of the two most powerful figures in the kingdom were full of arrogant satisfaction, and in the king’s case, a hint of worry and a pinch of fear were visible. Still sitting comfortably on his throne, the king didn’t budge as the soldiers’ shouts echoed in the throne room, and even though the echoes in the palace eventually died down, they wouldn’t die down in the king’s head for long after. He had gotten his hands full trying to deal with the Night Hunters, and now this!? But it doesn’t matter, the king told himself. No matter what, he would not let go of what’s his, and that included the whole Daikoku Kingdom and all the treasures within it. Anyone who dared to defy him would suffer such torture that they will beg for death!
Dark clouds loomed over Daikoku Kingdom that day, and no matter how hard the sunrays tried to penetrate them, their efforts were in vain. The golden rays of light had no choice but to swallow their disappointment, stay back quietly, and wait patiently for the dark clouds to be swept away. But alas, the dark clouds were so persistent in staying, as if insisting that the future of this kingdom would never be bright again.
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